Illuminating Mirror

I actually started the Lion Brothers project earlier this month, but never had a chance to blog about it. Blog post on that coming soon!

Anyway, here’s a little side project that I did today. Yup, I did it! Jumped on the illuminating mirror bandwagon. 😀 This trend is still not accepted by all lion dancers – people either love it crazily or hate it madly. In my opinion, if it’s done right, the illuminating mirror gives the lion some oomph. Some of the cheaper assembly-line lion heads have it, but the LED ring is clearly shown over the mirror! If hidden underneath a layer of rabbit fur, I think it looks much better. Check it out!

Illuminating mirror and lighting eyes.

What Now?

What Now?

I moved back home to San Francisco last month and have been searching for jobs, unpacking, reorganizing my room, cleaning up, etc. Now that Ace is done, what are my next lion projects? I’ve actually been thinking about it throughout these past few weeks and narrowed it down to three projects, but I’m not sure which I’ll be doing first and when I’ll be starting them.

1. Buddha Head Restoration – My friend gave me this Buddha head in 2006. I forgot where he obtained it, but it was in terrible shape. I promptly started the project but never got around to finishing it.

When I first got it, the outside was poorly covered with many layers of brown paper bag material, resulting in a really rough surface. The paint job was also really sloppy.

The Buddha’s head when I first got it.

As I started tearing off the outside layers, the original mask was revealed. It seems to be a young Buddha head, but I’m not entirely sure. What shocked me the most was the “feature” on the forehead! 😯 I wonder what happened! I started pasting newspaper on the inside and outside to prevent anymore plaster from cracking off and making a mess.

Had a lobotomy?

To fix the hole, I blew up a balloon and stuck it inside the head so there was a template of the contour. I pasted more newspaper over the balloon to patch the hole and popped the balloon afterward. Plaster was spread all over the surface. I started sanding but never got around to finishing it. Here is how it looks right now:

Where the project currently stands.

A bit freaky, ey?

2. Baby Lion Restoration – My girlfriend has a baby lion just sitting around in her house. It was her childhood toy, although she doesn’t remember playing with it at all. It looks used, but the condition is still pretty good for its age. We’re planning to restore it completely and give it a lavender/blue-colored theme.

My girlfriend’s baby lion.

3. Lion Brothers Project – Probably the most ambitious project so far. The project will consist of rebuilding a frame that completely lacks the mouth area and building a frame from scratch. For the rebuild, most of the frame is still in pretty good condition, but the mouth area was completely destroyed and practically nonexistent. I already took the frame off the base rim to reattach the handlebars. After rebuilding the frame, I will use it as a template to build another frame from scratch. It will start from a salvaged aluminum base rim that I acquired.

The two rims being prepped.

This frame needs a completely new mouth!

Updates soon!

Ace Restoration – Overview and Final Comments

After something like six long years, I’ve finally completed the restoration of Ace on April 24th, 2013. It was definitely not a piece of cake! Initially, I said it probably took about 60 or so hours for this entire project, but that was an underestimate. Now that I think about it, I probably spent over 100 hours.  With that amount of time comes many things learned from this project – both things I would and wouldn’t do again. In the first part of this blog, I’ll give an overview of the project. In the second part, I’ll give some final comments about the restoration, including the things that I wouldn’t do again for my future projects. The third part will be about some fun events with Ace. Let’s get started!

When Ace was first handed to me, the right side of the frame was completely off the base and the damage extended upward toward the cheeks and to the back near the gills.

Ace when I first got him. Notice how the mouth area is sinking toward the bottom due to the broken frame.

In the process of repairing Ace’s frame.

Notice the detachment even though I already started repairs.

This was one of the most troublesome parts of the project for me, since I didn’t have much experience fixing framework at the time. It took me quite a long time to figure out how everything was supposed to go back together, much like a puzzle.

After fixing the frame came the longest and most tedious part of any lion building/restorations – paper mache. Like Chris Low once said, “lather, rinse, and repeat” pretty much describes this step.

Front view of Ace papered, excluding the top fins.

Side view of Ace papered, excluding the top fins.

Back view of Ace papered, excluding the top fins.

Top fins papered.

What I did next is something that I didn’t tell many people until recently – automotive body filler. This step was probably even more tedious than the paper mache. One of my mentors told me that some traditional craftsmen back in the day put a really thin layer of plaster over the paper to make the surface smooth. I was taking auto-body repair classes at the time and got the idea of using a thin layer of automotive body filler instead. Boy, was that a bad idea! More on that later. After the body filler step, I glued the relief patterns with rope and pasted grass paper over everything. I then sealed the inside and outside of the lion with sealer-primer and painted a base coat of white. The lion was now ready for the colors and designs!

Grass paper over body filler with relief patterns made from rope.

For some reason, my favorite part to paint is the horn area, so I always do that first.

Painting around the horn. Note how the body filler makes a smooth surface.

Skip to several years later, I finally finished painting Ace. A gloss coat was put over the entire head to seal the paint, then embellishment began! A white rabbit fur pelt was cut into quarter-inch strips for various decorations around the head. Half-inch wide metallic gold gimp trim was used to cover the rabbit fur edges. I cut off the sharp part of brass thumbtacks to use the head as metal disks, which were glued around various locations on the lion. White bristle hair was attached by my friend, Andy Ta, since my fingers were cracked and bleeding from all the previous work. Silk balls were attached on their corresponding fins. Unfortunately, I got the silks balls secondhand and there weren’t enough for every single fin. Instead, I glued a metal disk on the inner gill fin tips.

Finished painting Ace!

Rabbit fur and metal disks glued on, bristle hair attached.

Silk balls attached!

Silk balls attached on the three hind fins. Metal disks in place of silk balls for the triangular fins.

Next, I mounted the mouth and the ears. I worked on these two parts separately as a break from the main lion frame. For the beard, I bought ten 1-inch wide hair extension clip-ons and cut off the clip. I glued each strip side by side on the lip and glued trim over the glued edges. This is another step that I would modify for my next projects.

Ears mounted.

Completed mouth.

Ace’s beard. Notice how thin it is compared to other beards. Taking that into consideration for future projects.

Ace COMPLETE! Image taken by Chris Low.

Here are some shots from various angles.

Ace from a front-side angle.

Side view of Ace.

Back view of Ace.

Pattern above the eye.

Completed horn area.

Here are some before and after pictures!

Before and after, front view.

Ear, before and after.

Above the mouth, before and after.

Side view, before and after.

Back view, before and after.

Overall, this was a really nice project for me. It was the first full restoration of an adult-sized lion that I’ve ever done.  Previous projects were either full restorations of baby lions or steps of a larger restoration. I definitely learned a lot of things! Here’s a compilation of all the things I wouldn’t do again (in case anyone want to avoid it too).

  • No more masking tape for binding. That stuff loses its adhesive properties over time and becomes crusty. I really like Thomas’ idea of using first aid/sports tape as a binding medium, so I’ll be using that from now on.
  • No more body filler, EVER! That was probably my biggest regret of the entire project. Yes, it is tough stuff, but when it goes on too thick, it cracks very easily. It was very hard for me to spread a thin and even layer of body filler, since the stuff is like watery clay. Not only that, sanding it was a pain in the butt! I spent MANY hours sanding that stuff. The sanding dust is toxic, so I had to wear a respirator when work with it. After sanding, more body filler was spread on to fill in the small dips and holes. And then more sanding…repeat… Oh yea, I had to use a rotary tool to cut holes for mounting the mirror and some of the bristle hair. Because of the body filler, it took me an unnecessary four hours to mount the mirror.
  • No more cheap paints. I was forced to use it because of the allowed budget, but never again for my personal projects. Most colors took at least 2 coats for full coverage, which was a complete waste of time on my part.
  • No more Americana triple thick gloss glaze for the final gloss coat. Yes, it gives a super shiny glossy look, but applying it took way more time than necessary. It’s so thick that brushing it on was kind of like brushing honey onto a lion head. Imagine that…
  • This is minor, but if I could, I would use 3/8th inch gimp trim next time. I bought a roll of gold gimp trim on eBay that was listed as 3/8th inch, but when it came, it was half an inch! I still used it anyway, and the overall effect wasn’t too bad.
  • For the beard, I really liked the feel of the artificial human hair. Next time, I will try to get that material in bulk and maybe tie my own beard. The gluing method may not be as strong as the traditional method of attaching the beard using wire.
  • The pillow’s size was a huge mistake. I made it a bit too tall, which got in the way of the ears hoops that connect to the rope and elastic. This made the ears point outwards all the time.
  • The LED’s in the lighted eyes weren’t aligned. One was pointing downward more than the other, resulting in an uneven look. Next time, I will try using Chris Low’s method or devise my own.

On April 25th, Andy and I went to Chris Low’s house with Ace to have a little photo session with his lions! Soon after, his kids also jumped in.

Chris Low’s Lo An Kee restoration and Ace. Image taken by Chris Low.

Chris Low, a hobo (just kidding, it’s me), and Andy. Image courtesy of Chris Low.

Horse stance! Image courtesy of Chris Low.

Three generations of lion dancers. Image courtesy of Chris Low.

How comfortable! Image courtesy of Chris Low.

Posing with Ace. Image taken by Chris Low.

On April 26th, I brought Ace back to UC Irvine’s Southern Young Tigers during one of their practices. A Hoi Gwong ceremony was planned for that day, which featured Ace and another one of their new modern Fut San lions.

Eye-dotting the lions.

Ace adorned with golden flowers and red ribbon.

The saddest part of the night was when I realized that I spent 6+ years working on Ace, but I had to give it back not even a week after I finished him. There are a lot of memories attached to Ace that I will never forget.

Good bye, Ace.

Special thanks to my girlfriend, Annie Ngai, for helping me paint some parts of the lion and my good friend, Andy Ta, for helping me with the ornamental balls and attaching the bristle hair.

Ace Coming Together!

Ace is finally coming together! I’ve been making a lot of progress over this past week but haven’t updated on it, so here they are!

Saturday – April 20th

Ace’s ears were fully assembled and embellished. I spent the previous few days putting a gloss coat on everything and preparing the embellishments.

Ace’s ears are complete!

Close-up shot of right ear.

I also finished the mouth on Saturday.

Ace’s mouth complete!

Ace’s beard. A little thin this time around so I’ll be changing the way I do it for my next project.

Sunday – April 21st

Ace’s nose was finished. I glued rabbit fur strips, braided trim, and metal discs on it.

Front view of completed nose.

Side view of completed nose.

I also glued metal discs around the entire lion. Many had patterns, but some were just random.

Metal disc pattern along green strip.

Metal disc patterns on front.

Metal discs around horn.

Monday – April 22nd

It took me a horrendous 4 hours to mount the mirror because a lot of complications came up.

Mirror mounted and embellished!

I also glued rabbit fur and braided trim around the horn.

Completed horn.

My friend, Andy Ta, also helped me put on the bristle fur for the lion. A special post about him coming soon! 😀

Mounting the bristle fur.

I also glued rabbit fur and braided trim for the lower eye.

Ace’s lower eye area has rabbit fur instead of bristle fur.

All the bristle fur on!!

This is how Ace looks currently. I know I didn’t meet the Sunday deadline for finishing him, but I’m hoping to finish by Tuesday! Good luck to me, I guess.










Finished Painting Ace!

I’ve finally finished painting Ace. I set the due date for Sunday, but finished one day late. It’s okay though!

After a gloss coat, I will be able to start accessorizing. I’m hoping to finish the entire lion by the end of the week, on 4/21. Let’s see if I can do it!

Here are the pictures of Ace’s paint job.

Front view.

Angled view.

Side view.

Back view.

Top view.

More updates coming soon! Stayed tuned!





Ace is coming together!

I spent the last few days painting Ace, and it’s finally coming together! Just a few more parts to paint and I can finally start putting on embellishments. I’m hoping I can finish painting in a week.

Check it out!

Lighted eyes!

Pillow made by my girlfriend and mom. Thanks!

Finished painting the remaining half of the left side.

Painted the gold trim on side.

Front gold trim painted too!





Chris Low Cont’d

Two nights ago, I went to visit Chris Low at his house for the first time! I also brought along Ace for him to see. It was an awesome visit. 😀

At approximately 8:30PM, my friend and I arrived at his house. Chris walked outside to greet us, and soon after, his youngest son Davy came out to greet us too! We brought Ace inside his house, but oops, I realized I was interrupting his dinner! Sorry Chris! His wife Sandra and the kids Danny and Ally continued to eat while we talked about lions.

I soon noticed one room with three lions sitting on a shelf. The first one was a pretty battered up Guan Gong lion that is Chris’ next project. It was originally from his club and had thin wooden dowels in the frame. That was the first time I’ve seen anything like it! But like he said, they weren’t flexible enough to be used in a lion head.

Next project!

Wooden dowels as part of the lion frame

The second lion was the Lo An Kee lion restoration that was previously mentioned on my blog. Click here if you haven’t read about it. I never got a chance to take a picture of the lion after the eye-dotting ceremony, but here’s the horn with all the accessories!

Awakened and accessorized!

The third lion is a really special one – the first lion he built from scratch that was posted on Lion’s Cave with step-by-step instructions! I remember seeing it back in the early 2000’s when I was just starting to lion dance. It was one of the most amazing projects that I’ve seen at the time. Even now, that lion is extremely sturdy and practically looks unused even though Chris had used it numerous times back in the day. The frame was made with bamboo strips taken from window blinds. I also vaguely remember reading something about free USPS shipping bags that were used as a layer of paper mache. If I also remember correctly, thin strips of packaging tape were used as the binding medium. Cool stuff!

The lion that started it all.

Inside the lion. See the USPS logo?

Two more potential lion projects were taken into the living room for me to see. Meanwhile, Danny pulled out his lion and started dancing it around the house!

Danny lion dancing around the house.

Soon after, Ally decided to join too!

Ally joins Danny as she plays the tail!

Danny’s lion is actually featured on Of Course Lion Source as a Can Do Lion Builder project. If you haven’t seen it, click here.

Later on, Ally even took out her pet caterpillar to show me. Most people are scared of critters, but she loves them! I asked her when it will turn into a butterfly but she didn’t know yet. What she did know was that it ate a lot and slept a lot, hence its name, “piggy”. Hahaha

Anyway, back to lions!

It turns out that the Lo An Kee restoration that Chris completed last year also had a sibling. He got both lions together, but hasn’t started on the second one yet. Can’t wait to see it started!

Another Lo An Kee frame waiting to get restored.

The last lion is a blank that was supposed to be a Bak Wan replica. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite match the Bak Wan shape. It’s ok though, because the shape isn’t very typical either, which gives it a uniqueness of its own. Can’t wait to see this project started too!

The intended Bak Wan replica.

That was it for the lions, but we continued to converse and converse. It felt good to speak to such an experienced lion dancer! It was only ten years ago that I thought I would never meet this guy. Next thing you know, I’m standing inside his house!

A little sadness came to me when I had to leave. I was just about to start the engine and get going, but Ally came running outside with two Easter eggs to wish us a happy day-after-Easter! Thanks Ally!

A gift from Ally, filled with candies!

Oh yea, if you guys didn’t know, Chris is writing a book on how to build a lion head from scratch! I was able to flip through it and let me tell you, that thing is AMAZING! So many detailed pictures, diagrams, and instructions. He started on it over a year ago and is still working on it! Click here for more information.

Vincent Nguy’s Finished Lion!

A fellow Can Do Lion Builder just finished building a lion head from scratch! Click here to check out his blog. Here’s a sneak preview:


Vincent Nguy is what I call creativity at its finest! I visited his blog often to check out how the lion is progressing, and from step 1, I was already amazed! He started with a broomstick handle and a metal base rim! For the pillow, he used a doggy bed. Also, instead of the traditional paper bindings, he used thin wire. Rather than building the frame with all bamboo strips, he also incorporated rattan strips. I’ve always thought about using rattan strips for the parts of a lion that has really tight curves. Now that I’ve seen it done, I’ll probably incorporate it into my next project. So cool!

Great job, Vincent! Congratulations! 😀

114th Golden Dragon Parade – Los Angeles Chinatown

I haven’t performed lion dance for quite a while already, but decided to join the Immortals as they took part in the 114th Golden Dragon Parade on Saturday. It’s quite amazing to know that this annual parade started before the 1900’s!

In the past, I’ve lion danced for the San Francisco Chinese New Year parade three times and had quite a bit of fun. But for the Golden Dragon Parade, I had one complaint – the searing heat dehydrated me very quickly! The SF parade happens at night when it’s the coolest, while the LA one happens during the daytime when it’s the hottest. Either way, it was still fun!

My friend picked me up early in the morning to head to the Immortals “headquarters”, where a big Budget truck was waiting with all the parade equipment inside. After most of the people arrived, we started heading to the parade location.  I immediately felt the heat when I walked outside!

Lots of people started showing up. I think there were at least 100 people there to help out with the parade! Even UCLA ACA showed up to help out.

Look at all those people!

UCLA ACA Lion Dance

Unloading and assembling the equipment probably took over an hour. Lions, dragons, banners, flags, lanterns, everything!

Lions waiting for the parade

One of the dragons for the parade

The dragon was the longest I’ve ever seen. I think something like 20 or more people were needed to walk the dragon through the parade.

Look at the length of that thing!

Before the actual parade though, there was an opening performance at the carnival nearby.

Getting ready for the opening carnival performance


There, I even got to take a picture with someone famous! Anyone recognize him? He’s an older member of the Immortals.

Al Leong!

After the carnival performance, we ate some food and waited for the actual parade to start. Some of the younger performers warmed up the instruments with some energetic music.

Warming up the instruments

We started walking to where the parade starts.

Waiting at the start of the parade


So many flags and banners!

And so the parade started. Two miles of walking and lion dancing in the searing heat drained me pretty quickly. While going through the parade, there was this historical society that set up lettuce and red envelopes for the lions. All the lions quickly gathered around and gave a mini-show right on the spot!

Mini show for the historical society

The parade ended soon after that, but that wasn’t it! We went around several shops in Chinatown to help bless their businesses. After that, we took a break at the Immortals headquarters before heading to two more shows. The two shows were actually around the same time, so the teams were split into two groups. I followed the group that performed for a high school reunion at the Hilton Hotel. The hotel was in a plaza, so the teams blessed some businesses before the show started.

After the performances, the team went to eat a pretty grand dinner. Too bad I forgot to take some pictures! I was actually dead tired and couldn’t eat much. At that point, I just wanted to take a shower and go to sleep.

And to end it, let me show you the battle scars! The top blister was from drumming and the bottom blister was from lion dancing. It’s actually not bad at all. I’ve seen a lot worse! I remember seeing someone with an entire finger’s worth of skin scraped off after the parade.

Battle scars for the day

Happy Chinese New Year everyone!

Lions from San Jose Vietnamese New Year Tet Festival 2013

Saw some some beautiful lions at the Vietnamese New Year Festival in San Jose over the weekend. I’ve added some photos to the Lions photo gallery, check them out!

Unfortunately, I didn’t stay long enough to see their performances. 🙁

Reunited Dragon Tail

I’ve returned the dragon tail and it is now reunited with the body and the head! Exciting!


Dragon Tail and Stuffs

Hello again my fellow lion enthusiasts. It’s been a really long time! I’ve been pretty busy with school and Alex disappeared off the face of earth. Just kidding 😀

I haven’t finished painting Ace yet, but I hope to complete the whole project by the end of 2013. Didn’t I say that in 2011?

Anyway, several months ago, I helped restore a dragon tail for a friend in LA. It was just finished last night!

Here’s how the dragon tail looked originally. I’d say it was still in decent condition.

Dragon tail before restoration

A closer look showed damage on the fins. Removing the paper actually revealed that most of the fins were snapped from the main frame.

Fins were pretty banged up

The fins were repaired and reinforced.

Repaired dragon tail frame

After the frame was fixed, a layer of gauze and paper was put on the frame. The papering process wasn’t finished but it was time for my winter break! So I brought the dragon tail back to SF to work on.

Paper mache completed

After two layers of paper, a coat of white was painted on the dragon tail. Then I sketched the patterns and started painting!

Upside orange raindrops on the base coat of white

Most of the patterns were pretty simple to paint. It was similar to coloring within the lines, much like a kid’s coloring book. The most complicated part was blending colors on the fin, but that wasn’t too bad.

Scales completed and blended colors on fin

I couldn’t finish painting the dragon tail during my winter break, so off it went back to LA again.

Paint almost completed. Just needed white shadows on flames

After painting, the entire dragon tail was coated with a glossy varnish. Velcro was hot glued back on, and the project was complete!


Hope you guys enjoyed this much needed update!

Analysis – America’s Got Talent – Lion Dance Me

Most of you who are reading this probably already know about Lion Dance Me’s appearance on America’s Got Talent these past few months. In case you missed it, here is the audition video:

Video courtesy of AmericasGotTalent.

And here is the quarterfinal video:

Video courtesy of AmericanBestTalent.

First off, I have to give major props to Lion Dance Me for promoting Chinese lion dance at a national level, and also for the hard work and training that they went through. I know I will never achieve their level in lion dance stunts, so it is quite humbling to watch them perform such hard routines on national television. Unfortunately, they didn’t make it past the quarterfinals. Good job for getting that far though!

In addition to the many things that went well, I saw a few things that might not have went so well. I also saw a few neutral things that can be debated about. Overall, their achievements can be discussed endlessly. Hopefully, this blog post will spark some meaningful discussions!

What went right:

  1. Difficulty of stunts – In their quarterfinal performance, the stunts were definitely hard enough to show that the team has talent. In addition to the difficulty of the stunts, doing them on top of poles that are several feet off the ground confirms the talent of the group.
  2. Continuing after a mistake – One of the worst things you can do while performing is to give up after a mistake. In the audition video, one lion slipped on the poles and fell off. The whole performance wasn’t shown but they did continue until the end of the performance.
  3. Synchronized ending – In their quarterfinal performance, all lions ended with a synchronized pop. In my opinion, a synchronized ending is a strong ending.

Neutral thoughts/opinions:

  1. Use of electronic music – In their quarterfinal performance, no lion dance music was used. Instead, a mix of Avicii’s Levels and some Asian drumming beat was used throughout the performance. Although I’m a huge fan of electronic music, I’m not sure it added anything special to the routine. I suspect that this was done because the judges told them to step it up and do something different.
  2. Emotions and expression – I realize that Lion Dance Me labels themselves as an “acrobatic act”, but I feel that they almost completely forgot about an important aspect of Chinese lion dancing – lion expressions. Lion dancing with emotions and expressions usually adds a new dimension to the performance. This might have benefited them.

What went wrong:

  1. Too many lions – Way too many lions were used during the quarterfinal performance. In Asian celebratory occasions, large numbers of lions perform at the same time to signify happiness. But when performing to showcase talent, I think two or three lions are enough. This way, the audience can focus on individual movements, hence understanding their true difficulty. With too many lions, all of them start to look similar after a period of time. At one point, it just looked like seven lions jumping up and down, back and forth on the poles.
  2. Choreography – With seven lions comes the need for good choreography. In my opinion, synchronized movements works best with multiple lions to impress an audience. Most of the stunts that they did seemed to be random and isolated. This is another reason why at one point, it looked like all seven lions were just jumping up and down, back and forth on the poles.

Miscellaneous Thoughts:

I actually liked Howard Stern’s suggestion at the end of their quarterfinal performance. Imagine if there were two lions, one with the lion costume and one without, doing a completely identical and synchronized routine. This would show the true difficulty of the stunts. Most people don’t realize how hard lion dance stunts are because the lion costume hides everything that must occur to successfully perform a stunt. If one lion was masked and the other wasn’t, the audience and the judges would get to see how truly difficult lion dancing is.

What are your thoughts on Lion Dance Me’s performance on America’s Got Talent? Leave some comments below!

UCLA ACA Lion Dance

When I first heard about UCLA’s ACA Lion Dance in 2011, I almost squealed with joy. A lion dance team at the school I was going to! How exciting is that? Unfortunately, the first academic quarter was way too hectic for me to check out their practices. After settling in though, I got the chance to do so.

The team was formed in the early 2000’s by four people. Of these four people, I know one personally and the other is the brother of one of my friends. There are actually some pretty complicated connections between this team and a few other teams, which influences the structure of the practices.

Practices take place in an underground parking garage on campus. Many people come early to relax and chat with others. Once a good number of students show up, the coordinators scream “Rows and Columns!” which signals for everyone to line up. Another scream of “Ready, hut!” and every member is doing the standardized team salute.

Relaxing and chatting.

Doing the standardized team salute.

Immediately after, the team warms up with jumping jacks and stretches.

Warming up with jumping jacks.


Occasionally, a parking enforcement officer may decide to drive his truck into the garage and induce some paranoia amongst people.

Paranoia ensues.

After the stretching, a series of low, medium, and high horse stances are practiced. Both arms are extended in front while a flicking motion is done by the wrist.

Practicing horse stance.

Afterwards, a semicircle is formed for drumming and cymbaling practice. I’ve never seen them bring a gong though, which makes me wonder if they ever use one. In fact, I wonder if they even have one anymore.

Practicing drumming and cymbaling.

The team utilizes both Fut San and Hok San drumming with an added twist. Many members clap their hands as a substitute for using cymbals. This is actually a good way to practice, since cymbal clashing can get significantly louder than the drum, especially when there are a large number of cymbals.

The team coordinators leading practice.

After drumming and cymbaling is the fun stuff! Woot woot! Usually, the team breaks up into two groups – newbies and veterans. The coordinators then split up to supervise each group. Lion movements are practiced for the remainder of the class.



Practicing basic movements.

Andy and Steven practicing stunts.

Ashley and Leo practicing a single leg stack.

James and Steven practicing the dip.

UCLA ACA Lion Dance. RAWR!

Another Update on Ace

It’s been a while since I’ve given an update on Ace, so here it goes!

During winter break, I was able to paint most of Ace’s right side, including his cheeks, gills, and all the corresponding fins.

After winter break ended, I didn’t get to see Ace until my spring break, which just ended today. I was able to paint a little bit more during this short week.

I also painted a preliminary Zhao Pai. The two characters are Ai Si, which just sounds like a Chinese pronunciation of Ace. Thanks to my fluent Chinese friends for helping me with this one.

Notice that there is a lot of white space on the sides of the characters. I want to fill this white space up so the Zhao Pai doesn’t look too plain. Also, the gap between the two characters is huge. I already started the process of fixing this before the break ended. If you guys have any other ideas on the Zhao Pai, leave it in the comments please. Thanks!

Commentary – KTSF 26 Golden Gate Fields – Lion Dance Competition

So Alex decided not to post up the videos he filmed during the competition because there are better ones that are already on Youtube. He was filming from a bad angle and also missed the first half of Yau Kung Moon’s performance to get his $1 hot dogs. Haha 😛

He might make a video montage when he has free time, but in the meantime, I’ll embed other people’s videos here and give some commentary.

First up is Yau Kung Moon of San Francisco, which competed with a Hok San style routine, utilizing a set of high benches. I’ve actually never seen benches built like that, so they’re pretty unique to me. Their drumming was a pretty standard Malaysian Hok San beat.

Video courtesy of ykmsf.

A few observations:

  1. Notice the appearance of a gradual slope from the head to tail, presenting the neck of the lion. I discussed this in The Lion Horse.
  2. The lion movements are relatively gentle and soft compared to traditional Fut San lion dancing. This a characteristic of Hok San lion dancing.
  3. Many Malaysian Hok San lion heads use a full length ram fur on both the top and bottom eyelids. This lion only uses full length ram fur on the top eyelid. Instead of full length ram fur, I’m guessing either thick rabbit fur or trimmed ram fur was used for the bottom eyelid. I don’t see many of those lions around, but it’s a nice change from the typical Malaysian Hok San lions seen everywhere.

The next performance was by Hung Sing Goon of San Francisco. They competed with a somewhat hybrid style routine, utilizing a red wooden wash basin. Their drumming was a unique Fut San beat.

Video courtesy of Dj2FrEsHz.

A few observations:

  1. Although they’re dancing a Fut San lion head and using a Fut San drumbeat, you can clearly see some Hok San flavor in the lion’s movements. These are the gentle and soft movements that I mentioned above. They’ve also incorporated some strong, snappy lion movements characteristic of Fut San lion dancing.
  2. Throughout the routine, there were some parts with some pretty realistic animalistic emotions and expressions.
  3. Standing on the brim of that basin is a lot harder than it looks.

The last performance was by Rising Phoenix of San Jose. They competed with a hybrid style routine, utilizing a wine jug prop.  Their drumming seems to be Hok San based with some Fut San influences.

Video courtesy of haisan408.

A few observations:

  1. Their lion head is practically identical to Hung Sing Goon’s lion. The only differences that I spotted were the pompom colors, nose color, and some of the paint colors.
  2. The routine was relatively fast-paced compared to the other two teams’ routines.
  3. You can clearly tell that they put a lot of attention and focus on the lion’s expressions and emotions. The portrayal of being drunk was spot-on.

Overall, I enjoyed watching all three performances. I wish I was there in person! Maybe one day, far in the future, we’ll be able to pull a team together and compete! But thinking about that will be saved for another time…

KTSF 26 Golden Gate Fields – Lion Dance Competition

So Ryan tells me about this lion dance competition going on in the Bay area a couple days ago. Now, you know I haven’t practiced lion dancing or wushu for a long time now. Was planning on just catching up on work today, but Ryan convinced me to go check it.

The event was presented by KTSF26 (a local television station with Chinese programming) and Golden Gate Fields (a horse racing track in Berkeley). This lion dance competition included three lion dance teams from around the Bay: Yau Kung Moon, Hung Sing, and Rising Phoenix.

Yau Kung Moon started the competition using a beautiful silver, lime green highlight, white fur lion. Their performance apparatus was a pair of high benches and a pot.
Yau Kung Moon Lion Dance

Next up was Hung Sing, with a black, gold highlight, red fur lion. Their performance apparatus was a large bucket.
Hung Sing Ling Dance

Last up was Rising Phoenix, with what seemed to be an identical looking lion as Hung Sing. They are infact two separate lions, but with a very similar look. Details on the head separate them apart. Their performance apparatus was a large bottle, in which they used to do a drunken lion act.
Rising Phoenix Lion Dance

There were plenty of kids in attendance for the lion dancing and other crafts. There were painters available to hand paint and write calligraphy on fans, animal balloons being made for kids, as well as other dance and Chinese musical performances. Since this was $1 day at Golden Gate Fields, I imagine there were people here for the horse racing and cheap food and drinks as well. And hearing the beating of the drum gathered a decent size crowd. Being the fatty that I am, I was enticed to get a couple of the dollar hot dogs. 🙂

As for the competition, the results are as follows:

  1. First Place: Yau Kung Moon
  2. Second Place: Rising Phoenix
  3. Third Place: Hung Sing

To view entire photo gallery for this event, check out the Photos page.

  • KTSF26 Golden Gate Fields Lion Dance Competition
KTSF26 Golden Gate Fields Lion Dance Competition

This was a lion dance competition between three Bay Area lion dance teams. Presented by KTSF26 and Golden Gate Fields. Teams competing include: Yau Kung Moon, Hung Sing, and Rising Phoenix

Video clips of the performances to come, so stay tuned! 🙂

Portraying a Lion’s Age

The concept of portraying a lion’s age was first mentioned to me several years ago. At the time, it didn’t appeal to me greatly, so I just hid the concept in the back of my head. But after the Hoi Gong ceremony for Chris Low’s newly restored lion, the concept suddenly sparked into my mind again as I watched Yogi Tam, Vincent Chan, and a younger member playing with the lion head. If incorporated correctly and creatively, portraying a lion’s age would be an impressive aspect of a performance.

We all know that our hair turns white as we grow older. The concept of a lion’s age is based off of this – a black-haired lion is young, while a white-haired lion is old. Notice that I said hair, not fur. In my opinion, lion heads with ram fur or other types of fluffy fur all look about the same age. On the other hand, white-bristle haired lions tend to look older then black-bristle haired lions. With that said, it would be proper for a black-haired lion head to be portrayed as young and energetic, while a white-haired lion should be portrayed as wise and civilized.

A black-haired lion’s movements should be fast, powerful, energetic, “wild”, snappy, etc. The video below shows these descriptions. The first person (up to 7 seconds) is a younger member of The Immortals team, while the second person is Vincent Chan.

A white-haired lion’s movements should be more refined, classy, well-mannered, etc. The video below shows these descriptions. Yogi Tam is dancing the lion for the duration of the video.

It’s interesting how a person’s age may play a role in the age of the lion. Notice that the younger member’s style is the most “wild” out of the three, while Vincent and Yogi’s styles are far more refined and controlled.

Since lion dancing is a form of storytelling, the appearance of both a black-haired lion and a white-haired lion in a performance would be greatly enhanced with the additional detail in portraying the lion’s age. If incorporated well, the full story can be told with a new dimension.

Chris Low

Many lion dancers from the late ‘90s to about ’05 have probably heard of his name. He is the youthful,  paparazzi-chased, and handsome creator of probably the largest lion dance resource website on the internet – Lions Cave

Around the time when I first started lion dancing, I came across the Lions Cave website while surfing the internet. I couldn’t believe it; there was so much information about lion dancing that I’ve never known. At the time, the internet wasn’t as well developed as it is now. Communication between large numbers of people occurred through mailing lists that worked using email addresses. I still remember the ecstatic feeling running through me when a new response from the mailing list arrived to my email inbox.  Oh, the memories…

I’ve always known of Chris, but haven’t met him in person until this past Saturday. We’re usually at different parts of California, so it wasn’t likely that I would magically bump into him. But after confirming my acceptance letter to UCLA last year, I realized it was finally possible to meet him in person. After all, who wouldn’t want to know a stud like him?

Last year, he took on a restoration project of an old Luo An style lion head. I was excited when I heard about this project because Luo An style lion heads were some of the most beautifully crafted pieces of art from Hong Kong. After one long year of hard work, he finished the project just in time for the New Year.

Chris invited me to the Hoi Gong ceremony for his newly finished project. This was my chance to meet the celebrity! Anyway, the lion was dotted at one of the Immortal’s performances. It was danced by two of the younger team members, and the honor of dotting was done by Marty Chiu, the original donator of the lion.

I arrived at the location about the same time that Chris did. As I walked toward him with excitement, I saw the expression that he recognized me! After the handshakes and small talk, he went to set up the performance. The Hoi Gong ceremony was nice and simple – red paint substitutes the cinnabar/chicken blood, artificial green onions and golden flowers adorn the horn, and the red ribbon ties it all together around the horn. Unfortunately, the ribbon wasn’t tight enough and the adornments weren’t affixed well. Many of the attached items came loose immediately after the lion awakened. The show still went on though! After the lion cleaned itself, it ate its first meal consisting of lettuce and a red envelope. The ceremony ended with the new lion greeting some older lions from the Immortals.

Dotting the Ear

It has awaken!

Greeting of the Lions

I’m glad I was there to witness the whole ceremony. Well done on the lion, Chris!

A brilliant idea for two toned fur outline of the mirror.

A side view.

Yogi posing with the lion.

The Immortals Lion Dance Team

A little over a month ago, I traveled over 300 miles down south to Los Angeles for school. This was pretty much a brand new start for me – it is the first time I’ve ever lived on my own. The first month has been an experimental period, since I needed to find a balance between school and the basic necessities of life. Finding a new lifestyle pattern has kept me out of the lion dance loop for a long time. Being over 300 miles away from my lion dance groups at home, I needed to find a lion dance group in/near Los Angeles.

I must thank Lion Blogs for helping me out on this one. Without much effort from me, I think I’ve found the right lion dance group for me – the Immortals Lion Dance Team based in Monterey Park.

It all started with the blog post about my ignorance in Hok San lion dancing. Chris Low, who commented on the post, introduced me to Yogi Tam through email. Because Yogi came from a Jow Ga background in the East Coast, he knows traditional Hok San lion dancing. It just so happens that both Chris Low and Yogi Tam are in the Los Angeles area, so we planned to meet up one day. Yogi helps teach at the Immortals practices and invited me to check it out. I finally had a bit of free time this Friday, so I went to Monterey Park to check it out.

The first half of practice took place at Jeff Chan’s house, who is the founder of the team. Upon arriving, I was greeted by Yogi and Jeff Chan’s son, Vincent Chan. Probably one of the first things that I noticed was the MASSIVE inventory of lion dance equipment. Vincent showed me a lot of the lion heads that they owned, while simultaneously conversing about Luo An lions. We both agreed that they’re really nice traditional lions and it’s quite unfortunate that the company has shut down after retirement.

A small fraction of their lion dance equipment.

A variety of different masks, some of which I've never seen before!

More lion dance equipment.

Another collection of the more traditional Dai Tau Fut and other characters' masks.

One item that really caught my attention was a dragon head that Jeff Chan customized himself. He used one of Vincent’s childhood lions and transformed it into a dragon head. It was quite an impressive piece of artwork, showcasing extreme creativity.

Lion transformed into a dragon.

While I was talking to Vincent, a group of younger kids were practicing dragon dancing in the front yard. I believe there was one college student, but the majority of the kids were middle school students.

Dragon dancing practice.

After watching some dragon dancing practice, it was time to head over to an elementary school for the second half of practice. During this time, I noticed several things that stood out about this lion dance team – respect, discipline, and love. Before heading over to the elementary school, Vincent told all the kids to line up and introduce themselves to me. I was quite shocked that all of them did so with respect and courtesy. It’s quite rare to find middle school kids with such discipline nowadays. After the formalities, we all hopped into several vehicles headed for the elementary school. I sat in Vincent’s truck, with several middle school girls in the back seats. While driving, he asked the girls about their progress in school. Of all the teams I’ve been with, this was the first time I’ve heard that question being asked. The team has a genuine love for their students. Also, throughout my visit, I felt that Vincent was already treating me like a family member, even though I’ve only met him for several hours. My heart was truly warmed by this, especially due to the nonexistence of relatives in the Los Angeles area.

At the elementary school, there were more kids that showed up. After a brief warm-up session, everyone was split into different groups for different lessons. Being completely out of shape, I was dead tired by the end of practice. Hopefully, I will get back in shape soon.

Second part of practice at the elementary school.

I must give my thanks to the Immortals Lion Dance Team, especially Vincent Chan and Yogi Tam.

Check out their website at